Foucault's toolbox: use of Foucault's writings in LIS journal literature, 1990–2016

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: To provide a close, detailed analysis of the frequency, nature, and depth of visible use of Michel Foucault's works by library and information science/studies (LIS) scholars. Design/methodology/approach: The study conducted extensive full-text searches in a large number of electronically available LIS journal databases to find citations of Foucault's works, then examined each cited article to evaluate the nature and depth of use. Findings: Most uses of Foucault are brief or in passing. In-depth explorations of Foucault's works are comparatively rare and relatively little-used by other LIS scholars. Yet the relatively brief uses of Foucault encompass a wide array of different topics spread across a wide spectrum of LIS journal literature. Research limitations/implications: The study was limited to articles from particular relatively prominent LIS journals. Results might vary if different journals or non-journal literature were studied. More sophisticated bibliometric techniques might reveal different relative performance among journals and might better test, confirm, or reject various patterns and relationships found here. Other research approaches, such as discourse analysis, social network analysis, or scholar interviews, might reveal patterns of use and influence not visible in this literature sample. Originality/value: This intensive study of both quality and quantity of citations may challenge some existing assumptions regarding citation analysis, plus illuminating Foucault scholarship. It also indicates possible problems for future application of artificial intelligence (AI) approaches to similar depth-of-use studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-707
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 21 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Bibliometrics
  • Citation analysis
  • Discipline
  • Discourse
  • Foucault
  • Information science
  • LIS
  • Library and information studies
  • Panopticon
  • Power
  • Surveillance


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